Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

Grace Kelly and my father, Philadelphia in the 1960s

Just called my dad who is doing well, living with one of my sisters in New Jersey.  Born in the second decade of the 20th Century to parents who came to the US in that wave of East-European immigration; a while back my sister managed to track down the actual logs from Ellis Island documenting their arrival from Poland (the original family name of "Dzieniszewski" was shortened to "Denski" a short time later).  He grew up in the tough part of Philadelphia, the "Fish Town" neighborhood and made his way during the Great Depression as a pool hustler, gambler, fighter and occasional footballer.  Along with another million plus men his age, he joined the Army and fought from the beaches in Normandy through France and Belgium as part of what Kurt Vonnegut would later describe as the "children's crusade" (now that I'm in my fifties, everybody looks impossibly young in the photos from that period).

Coming home after the war, he wanted "a job with a pension" and joined the Philadelphia Police force, eventually retiring as a Lieutenant.  Growing up and coming of age in the 1960s with a police officer father made ours a tumultuous relationship. These days, we speak about once a week and that past is well behind us now.

I love this photograph.  Grace Kelly and her mother are unveiling a bust of her father, John B. Kelly, a famous Philadelphia native, somewhere in Fairmont Park.  The bust is gone now, nobody seems to know where it went; I believe it was removed when a larger sculpture of Kelly as an Olympic rower was installed sometime, I think, in the 1990s. But I digress.

My father is there on the left, one of two Fairmont Park police officers serving as an honor guard. The other guy is Bill Hamilton, who once went to FBI school and brought me a present of a big book on the FBI that he had autographed "To Stanley, J. Edgar Hoover."  I don't know what happened to the book, I wish I still had it.

I used this photo a while back to start a rumor in the family that my father and Grace Kelly had an affair and that our brother, Joe, is actually my father's son by Princess Grace.  Nobody in my family actually looks like Joe, and Joe looks a WHOLE lot like this bust of John B. Kelly.

Anyway, happy father's day you rascal you.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Which side are you on?

"It is one of the characteristics of a free and democratic nation that it have free and independent labor unions." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt:

"The important role of union organizations must be admitted: their object is the representation of the various categories of workers, their lawful collaboration in the economic advance of society, and the development of the sense of their responsibility for the realization of the common good." - Pope Paul VI

"Only a fool would try to deprive working men and working women of their right to join the union of their choice." - Dwight D. Eisenhower

"The only thing workers have to bargain with is their skill or their labor. Denied the right to withhold it as a last resort, they become powerless. The strike is therefore not a breakdown of collective bargaining-it is the indispensable cornerstone of that process." - Paul Clark

"History is a great teacher. Now everyone knows that the labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it. By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed of levels of production. Those who attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them." - Martin Luther King Jr.

"Every advance in this half-century: Social Security, civil rights, Medicare, aid to education... one after another- came with the support and leadership of American Labor." - Jimmy Carter

"The history of America has been largely created by the deeds of its working people and their organizations--there is scarcely an issue that is not influenced by labor’s organized efforts or lack of them." - William Cahn, Labor historian

"Never forget, people DIED for the eight hour workday." - Rebecca Gordon

"Although it is true that only about 20 percent of American workers are in unions, that 20 percent sets the standards across the board in salaries, benefits and working conditions. If you are making a decent salary in a non-union company, you owe that to the unions. One thing that corporations do not do is give out money out of the goodness of their hearts." - Molly Ivins

"I want you to pledge to yourselves in this convention to stand as one solid army against the foes of human labor. Think of the thousands who are killed every year and there is no redress for it. We will fight until the mines are made secure and human life valued more than props. Look things in the face. Don't' fear a governor; don't fear anybody. You pay the governor; he has the right to protect you. You are the biggest part of the population in the state. You create its wealth, so I say, "let the fight go on; if nobody else will keep on, I will." - Mother Jones, 1913

"Our labor unions are not narrow, self-seeking groups. They have raised wages, shortened hours, and provided supplemental benefits. Through collective bargaining and grievance procedures, they have brought justice and democracy to the shop floor." - John F. Kennedy

"If you object to unfair treatment, you're an ingrate. If you seek equity and fair consideration, you're uppity. If you demand union security, you're un-American. If you rebel against repressive management tactics, they will lynch and scalp you. But if you are passive and patient, they will take advantage of both." - Congressman William Clay, Sr.